When someone would mention the Toyota Avalon, it used to be that you thought of retirees driving slowly with their turn signal flashing. Then came the launch of the total redesign in 2013, which gave the older skewed Avalon an all-around aggressive new look, a look that caught my eye immediately. It wasn’t only the sharp new exterior styling, the most noticeable change was Toyota’s tightening of the suspension for better handling and improved feedback to the driver. The former stodgy, floating chassis of the traditional Avalon could now move with confidence, regardless of what the driver handed it. Some older drivers complained. I drove it and loved it!
So the Avalon was redesigned, and in my opinion improved, delivering the best of both worlds: it could handle with spirit around town, as well as provide hours of comfort on the open road. It impressed me enough to turn my test drive into a purchase. Fast forward from 2013 to earlier this week. All cars at one time or another are named for a recall, even a Toyota, even my Avalon. Reluctantly, I took my car in for a recall to replace both seat backs, an all-day repair. My dealer set me up with a rental from our friends at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Minutes later, as chance would have it, I was driving a brand new, gray, 2015 Avalon.
It was an easy transition for me to go from driving mine to theirs (a great customer service move by Enterprise, giving a customer a car they are familiar and comfortable with). But I noticed immediately that the 2015 Avalon was essentially the same, but noticeably different. Something was not quite right. The rental Avalon was Toyota’s high-end Sport model, with paddle shifters and their variable control suspension tuning and engine performance controls, sporting its Norm/Sport/Eco modes. Being the top of the line, it should have impressed. Instead, it left me anxious to get my Avalon back.
The more I drove it, the more I wondered, could it be that Toyota launched the new Avalon to a whole lot of fanfare, delivering the quality its customer expected, then scaled back to save money? Something had changed from 2013 and 2015 that seemed to lessen the thrill of the Avalon. It seemed cheaper!
- The dash on the rental seemed to have more shiny reflective surfaces, giving it a plastic, cheaper look.
- The trolley mechanism for the sunroof seemed noisier, closing with a weak clink instead of the confident thunk of my car’s roof.
- The back-up camera had more complex graphics, making it harder to read and accurately interpret distances.
- The display of the high-end sound system in the rental, with Sirius Satellite Radio, made no sense. They ruined the logical presentation of my Avalon’s system.
I was so happy when I finally climbed back into my beautiful white Avalon. The moral of my story: don’t hesitate to buy a redesigned vehicle the first year it’s offered, when the manufacturer has their best foot forward. Don’t worry about them getting the bugs out of a new design run. Get your dream car before cost overruns erode the little things that made the car special. Love the Avalon, I just love mine more.